Friday, October 21, 2011

Cross country travel - day 9

Curitiba - Curitiba - Curitiba - we wake up early as we are excited to move on and leave the soggy city of Florianopolis for Curitiba.  I sure hope the good old sun will shine some and give us some new found warmth. As for our visit to Florianopolis,  it is a beautiful city and I am sure it takes quite a different feel when winter weather fades to summer and the beaches fill.  I guess we will have to wait for another day to see just what the city all has for us to love.
We leave after our usual morning routine and off we drive continuing up the coast of  Brazil just past Joinville before we start traveling inland.  Joinville... since today is a short drive we take a detour and explore this city  of around 520,000 residence.  We as tourist are welcome to the city by the surely German influenced city gate and as we continue into town,  that influence is even more evident.

OK - let's explore a little history of the city since Joinville is definitely French, but the city is obviously influenced by Germans,  what does wikipedia have to say.  Well, the city was founded in 1851 by German, Swiss, and Norwegian settlers.  The land was in fact a wedding gift to the French Prince of Joinville who married Princess Francisca of Brazil.   According to the internet, shortly after the wedding a palace was built in the city for them but I could not locate any additional information or photos of the palace.  The Royal couple never actually saw this land and sold it when they fell into financial crisis.  It was during this short period that the city obtained its name in honor of the Prince.  Joinville has thrived with an industrial and commerce economic base.  Today, it is the center to some of Brazil's largest software companies and is famous for it's strong German influenced culture.  It retains many aspects of the German culture in its architecture, local dishes, parties and in the way of life of its inhabitants, often known as workaholics.
Our journey today, takes us into the downtown area of the city and the German influence mentioned in wikipedia is definitely obvious.  The weather has cleared a bit, at least there is no rain and we enjoy getting out of the vehicle and walking around a bit.  I don't find the palace (at least I don't think I do) and at the time I did not know it even exist so I was not really looking.  However, I am intrigued, so someday a return visit to Joinville may be in order.  There is also a Lutheran influence in this predominantly Catholic country and the street corners are marked with their churches.   We stumble onto a main boulevard with gorgeous emperor palms lining the green space down the center of the street.  We take a relaxing stroll down the sidewalk and enjoy our exploring but soon it is time to continue our journey inland.

After a couple more hours in the car we arrive in Curitiba and begin to look for a hotel.  The feet of finding a nice hotel is a little hard as there is a convention in the city which is occupying a lot of the rooms.  At first all the rooms don't meet our standards as they either don't have  internet, are extremely small, or are on noisy streets.  We finally get lucky as one room opens up just as we ask the front desk if they have any vacancies.  We will take it!   We unload our bags and set out to explore the city a little before dark. 

My first impression of the Curitiba is that it has a modern twist which I have not seen in other cities of Brazil.  Along the streets there are round glass tubes full of people waiting for buses to take them home.  Evidently these hamster home like structures are the city bus stops and clearly residence depend on public transportation.  I am sure they are a welcome shelter on days like these when the weather is unpredictable. The next impression of Curitiba is of all the English directional signs  around.  I have not seen this in other Brazilian cities either, so I can only assume it is a little more tourist friendly or at least gets more tourists  from Europe and the United States.  Just, maybe I will be of some help as we navigate through the streets to our destinations. 

Speaking of destination,  we are in search of our first one which is the Opera de Arame (Wire Opera House).  A famous outdoor theater located in a lush park, Parque das Pedreiras .  After a couple of missed turns,  we finally reach the parking area and soon we are walking across the wire bridge towards the beautiful structure.  I imagine coming here to listen to an opera or to see a play.  How wonderful it must be with the wonderful sounds amidst the trees around.  A great  experience, but today it must only be a dream since there is no concert and we have no ticket.  Soon it is time to journey on. 

Our next destination is another park and after a few days of rainy weather,  it sure is nice to take a walk and enjoy the fresh air of the park.  A typical park found anywhere else in the world with a Brazilian twist of color.  Yes the observation towers at the other end of the reflection pond is a robust yellow mustard color.    Brazilians seem to like this color a lot and often choose it to paint their buildings and other structures. We spend a little time in the park and soon it is getting dark so we head back to the hotel to freshen up before we head out for dinner.

For our evening adventure, we park near a square in the heart of the city.  As in other cities of Brazil,  I am intrigued by the mosaic tile walkways.   They are so artistic and each one is different then the next.  A lot of time and energy are spent creating these masterpieces and they can be found all over the country.  I have quite a collections of walkway photos and often wonder what observers must think when I am attempting to get the perfect shot.   But, back to my observations... in the middle of the park there is a wonderful fountain off set by the dim lights of the street.  In the misty weather that has moved back in,  it is a perfect accent to a relaxing walk.  We search the buildings surrounding the square for a place to eat.  After some disagreement and a short search, we all finally decide on an Italian Buffet.  To our delight the food is simply wonderful and we truly enjoy our meals.  My only regret is that I do not remember the name so I cannot promote it on my blog and it makes it a little more difficult visiting again someday.   It truly is a great  ending to our first day in Curitiba.






Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cross Country Travel - Day 8

Wow... a great night of sleep and I am ready to wake up and have a wonderful day checking out Florianopolis and let's not forget having some great seafood.  I open the door of the patio for a quick peek of the city and am soon disappointed as the skies are gray and a little drizzle coming down.  We head to the hotels breakfast and we adjust our plans for the day.  (yes that means a little slower start to the morning and probably a little more time in the car)  Less rush is always good but I did wanted to enjoy this "beach town" with sun and blue skies.
 The valet pulls around our little Volkswagen Go and off we head traveling through the city streets.  It is a gray day, but our first destination takes us traveling up a steep hill through the narrow streets of the city.  Destination??? A look out point known for it's view of Florianopolis.  We realize it is not the best day to be checking out a viewpoint, but hey we are here and you just never know what experience you will have.  When we finally arrive,  it is raining quite hard but we are not witches from Oz and we won't melt, so out we trod.  Carefully stepping so as to not step in the puddles.  It is soon apparent that the view of the city  from this point would be spectacular on a clear day.  To be quite honest the view  today is nice as well and a little incite into me... I like a good rain shower and there is not much better in this world then getting one's hair rinsed by fresh raindrops.  One of my favorite sayings is "life is not about waiting for the storm to pass - it is about learning how to dance in the rain."   and today is a good day to dance!

We spend just enough time to get our hair wet but not get drenched and by this time we decide to head to the other part of Santa Cataria island away from the city and explore. Hopefully it is far enough to break away from these clouds and catch up with the sun.  The island is much larger then I expected and by the time we arrive at Tepera (our destination) it is getting to be time for lunch (SEAFOOD!).  We travel through the little town and our first stop is at a restaurant along the shore and unfortunately since it is the off season, it is only open for dinner. 
However, the owner is busy cleaning off the fifteen stairs that transcend the hillside at the entrance of the establishment.  He starts talking to us and I understand a little.  (yes Portuguese is getting better)  When he realizes I am an American he begins speaking  in English (a nice unexpected surprise) and we find out he spent quite a bit of time in the San Francisco area. He invites us in to take a look around so we head down the stairs.  We enter the restaurant with it's green walls and ocean views.  I begin to imagine coming back for dinner and grabbing a seat by the water and enjoying some good local wines and seafood.  The owner tells the story of his restaurant and how it opened just a a few months prior and his connection with San Francisco is apparent in his choice of  decor.  As he shares I continue to look around in the quaint bar and kitchen areas.  The decor is eclectic with a large variety of artistic pieces.  Tribal masks, antique jars, antique doors, and wooden sculptures adorn the wine rack adding interest and more for my eyes to investigate.  We spend some time in good
conversation and soon our stomachs are telling us it is time to move on.  We say good bye and I put his restaurant on my list of places to visit when I come back.  I just wish I could remember the name or that it would be on a local eatery list but at this point it is not.  I will have to trust my memory. 
As we leave the owner tells us of a seafood restaurant which should be open for lunch.  It is down the road a bit so we hop back in the car and continue our journey down the narrow streets and winding roads along the ocean. The rain has stopped but the skies are still gray and soon we arrive at  Ostras Ostras coisas (Oysters, Oysters, and Things - click here for their menu / website) .  It is a quaint little restaurant with fish traps hanging for decor and a back porch that over looks the ocean.  We don't trust the gray skies so we choose a table inside and wait for our food.  DELICIOUS --

Crab cakes for appetizers and the main event ...bobo de camarao (shrimp something).  I am definitely not disappointed with my food choice as the flavors are wonderful.  It is exactly what I would expect being so close to the ocean.  I know Luiz and Junior enjoy their meals as well and I would definitely come back for a meal.  If you find yourself traveling to Florianopolis,  this place should make your list of places to eat as the food was spectacular.   
As we leave the little restaurant I notice some wild poinsettias in bloom across the street.  The red is so dominant,  it is hard not to notice.  I have seen these holiday bloomers at other times during my travels in Brazil and I am not sure why I decide to mention them now. But growing wild they are so beautiful and much larger then what I think a poinsettias is.   I am not fond of them during the holiday season but maybe my mind is changing a bit? 
OK - enough with the little side track in my story and so back to our days journey and the countryside of the island.  We drive around a bit taking in the island and for the most part it is hills and valleys followed by a little drive along the shore line.  There are other little towns that we travel through with all the usual trappings of a tourist community.  It begins to rain again so we decide not to head to the beaches which this region is  famous for. (bummer!)   Back to Florianopololis our  travels take us past some favelas and back into the heart of the city.  Once again the streets are crowded with people scurrying around protected from the rain by their umbrellas.  Since it is raining we stay in the car for our self guided tour of the city and there is just not much more then a stop for mid afternoon coffee and gray skies to share.  Evening soon comes and as it is winter and cloudy,  it gets dark rather early. After dark we do find a beautiful park with graffiti filled statues, arbours and a wonderful over look.  In the distance you can see the Hercilio Luz Bridge which welcomed us as we arrived in the city the day prior.  The bridge was constructed beginning in 1922 and finished in 1926 by ABC (American Bridge Company) with all materials being imported from the USA. (interesting)  It was the first bridge to connect the Santa Catarina Island with the main land and is still the longest suspension bridge in Brazil today.  The bridge actually sneaks in the lists of 100 longest suspension bridges in the world as well.
In 1982 after concerns of its safety, the bridge was closed to traffic and only continued to be a link between island and mainland for pedestrians,  bicyclists, motorcyclists, and those with horse drawn carriages.  Then in 1991 it was closed to the public and has been so ever  since.  There have been studies done researching renovations which would enable the bridge to be reopened,  but at this time there are no plans to make this happen. It is a beautiful bridge and with its white lights dotting the dark sky, a wonderful exclamation point our visit in Floriaopolis.

Monday, October 3, 2011

50 / 50 movie review

"50/50" The movie starts quite shallow as Joseph Gordon - Levitt's character Adam is diagnosed with cancer and his girl friend (Bryce Dallas Howard) obviously has no ability to give him comfort or the support he needs.  His best friend Kyle (played by Seth Rogen) catches her kissing another man and Adam tells her to leave. Kyle becomes the sole support for Adam and I found myself frustrated with him as he is so self centered and awkward in dealing with the reality of Adam's diagnosis.  Kyle doesn't seem to be the support Adam needs either, as he makes jokes and attempts to use Adam's cancer to score with women.  At this point I found little value in the movie.  The tone quickly changes as  Adam begins chemo and meets his therapist (Anna Kendrick) who is beginning her career.  New to therapy she is learning how to comfort someone who is in Adam's situation which adds another relationship to understand and some additional awkward situations.  He soon meets two older guys who are dealing with their own mortality as they are battling cancer and taking chemo.  They provide a missing link for him to discuss the fear he has.  We get introduced to his care giving mother (played by Anjelica Houston) who he attempts to keep at an arms length.  She is dealing with a husband with Alzheimers and Adam eventually changes his attitude towards her after direction from his therapist and realizes how letting her support him is what she needs.  Throughout the movie,  Adam deals with family, friends, and learns to look at life from a new perspective.

HMM?? A cancer comedy???  I believe the movie will be appreciated even by people who can't imagine wanting to see a comedy on cancer.  As I have recently walked through chemo with a friend and the death of a relative due to cancer.  I was not sure what to expect of the movie.  It allowed me to meditate on morality and grapple with some difficult, scary questions in a soft and light way.  I found it to be a great balance between heart and humor.  I personally laughed a lot, cried a little more, and contemplated life more then anything.  Joseph Gordon - Levitt is remarkable in his role as Adam and I if I had anything to do with Oscar nominations,  the movie would get a couple nominations for sure. 

I would encourage anyone to go and see this remarkable balance of comedy and tragedy. 

Check out the ... Movie Trailer